Power, pace and elegance
IT may come as some surprise to hear BMW say that its twin new models, the M8 Competition coupe and convertible are its first foray into the luxury performance car market.
Having driven the extremely rapid M850i recently, that left me scratching my head. But when you are talking about power units that deliver supercar performance, small increments make a difference.
Both models feature a brutally powerful 4.4-litre V8 engine with twin turbos and the now familiar BMW M Steptronic eight-speed transmission, delivering a stonking 635hp and 750Nm of torque.
This in turn delivers neck-wrenching performance with the car hitting 62mph in just 3.2 and 3.3 seconds respectively.
For those who care about the incremental performance, the well over half a second to 3.9 seconds difference between that and the M850i may seem to make the latter almost pedestrian by comparison.
The Competition model also offers a track driving mode, where rear wheel drive can be selected and up to 189 mph can be hit where permitted.
Power is delivered by two turbochargers, cross-bank exhaust manifolds, direct injection with increased pressure, plus cooling and oil supply systems designed for maximum track performance.
All this power need to be transferred to the wheels in an efficient and safe manner and the four wheel with the model specific adaptive suspension and chassis improvements means the big beast is rarely troubled when you turn on the power.
This became apparent with a full day's drive up and down the twisting roads and passes of the mountains of southern Spain near Malaga. Difficult roads to test the performance and handling of any vehicle were dismissed by this luxury thoroughbred in the most beautiful Andalusian setting.
Choose full auto or switch to the paddles and the car is a delight, clinging limpet like on horseshoe bends with the big slabs of rubber on the 20-inch wheels and blasting away on the rare stretches of straight road. The convertible was driven first and on a sunny day the roof was straight down.
The car does look good, predatory, almost feline in profile in both coupe and convertible guise and features a hexagonal theme with upgraded black kidney grille carbon-fibre and large apron underneath.
To the rear there is a carbon-fibre spoiler, four exhaust pipes and diffuser for the cabrio. The coupe features a double bubble carbon fibre roof while the convertible offers a fabric top which folds away in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. When not required it can be folded to half its size and stowed in the boot.
The interior is the last word in luxury, functionality and comfort with powered front seats, featuring with warm air collars in the headrests in the convertible for when it gets chilly. Trim is of the highest quality with Merino leather, anthracite headliner, top quality soft touch finish and a riot of carbon fibre, leather, thick carpets, and the familiar M branding throughout on seats, sills and doors.
These include red accents on the M leather steering wheel’s M buttons and the start/stop button on the centre console. The newly designed transmission selector lever with Drivelogic switch is leather-surfaced with an embedded M logo and stitching.
The latest iDrive infotainment system dominates with the so-called Live Cockpit Professional 12.3-inch display which controls, navigation, infotainment and and a raft of connectivity services and apps with at last Android Auto being included from next year in addition to Apple CarPlay.
In addition the BMW Connected Package Professional adds remote services and real time traffic information. There’s also M8-specific dials which can be selected by the driver on the digital display and the couple of drive selector red buttons on the steering wheel.
Driving it is a real experience, floor the throttle and the exhaust acoustics change depending which mode is selected via the M Sound Control button on the centre console. By selecting SPORT PLUS the engine sounds more like a racing car as the roar of the V8 kicks in.
Two variants of this M setup can be stored permanently with the driver’s preferred settings for the engine sound, gearshift characteristics and driving stability control on either of those two red M buttons on the steering wheel.
On the road the huge amount of torque means power delivery is instantaneous, even allowing for overtaking with comfort on twisting roads. The 4WD Sport mode diverts a larger slice of engine power to the rear wheels. Deactivating the Dynamic Stability Control system (DSC) transfers power exclusively to the rear wheels for a more engaging drive.
The handling is peerless with the slip differential, adaptive suspension and active chassis keeping the car firmly planted while the beautifully weighted steering is direct and responsive, especially when you need to instantly avoid a herd of sheep crossing a mountain road.
But it's not just about the madcap performance. Slowing down through mountain villages, the car settles into a docile mode, but on the other side, feathering the throttle unleashes all the power again.
Is it also a superb motorway cruiser and happy to sit at 70 mph, but here allowed, again a blip of the throttle means that huge torque delivers brilliant overtaking speed.
For safety, the M compound brakes are standard while larger carbon-ceramic brakes are an option as the car provides a full complement of safety kit. In addition it features cameras which can record and store the previous 20 seconds on the car's activity on the hard drive, plus full complement of airbags, stability and traction control and assisted braking.
Rollover protection system is standard on the convertible which also includes a wind deflector, which can be set up in the rear-seat area to prevent unwanted air turbulence when driving with the roof down.
For the record claimed economy is around the 25mpg mark, obviously dependent on how you drive and emissions over the 250 g/km mark ain't going to save you anything on benefit in kind taxation. But at £123,000-plus for the coupe and £133,000, yes, £133k for the cabrio, it probably does't matter.
As usual with BMW, even for a car this expensive, options can bump up the price substantially, but that should be no surprise to BMW drivers.
And if the performance is too much there’s always the ‘pedestrian’ M850i.
But this is a true supercar and a delight to drive. BMW have thrown down the gauntlet to its challengers yet again.
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